Claybrakn... Shooter Responsibilities; Duties; Conduct (6/10)

Shooter Responsibilities, Duties, and Conduct
By Frank Neumayer  

Question:   As a long-time clay target shooter, it seems to me that many shooters have lost their manners!  Plus, I don’t think they fully understand their duties and responsibilities either.  You’ve been around the sport for a while… what are your thoughts on this? 

Answer:  First off, safety will always be the primary responsibility of every shooter, whether on or off the range, at practice or in competition.  Also, every shooter is expected to follow the posted rules at any club or range they visit, as well as to understand the official rule book for whichever clay target sport they’re engaged in.  For safe gun handling, the rule books will cover every aspect of a shooter’s duties and responsibilities.  You’ll receive a copy of the official rules when you join an association, and current copies are most always available at any registered shoot you attend.  The rules can also be found online at the association’s websites.  I certainly can’t cover everything here, but whichever clay target sport you participate in, the official rule books (PITA, ATA, NSSA, NSCA, etc.) will always explain in explicit detail the duties and responsibilities expected of each shooter as it relates to firearm safety, on the range or off, when engaged in any registered shooting event.    

     Now… what the rule books won’t tell you is what a shooter’s conduct should be toward their fellow shooters (including all shoot personnel) when on the range as well as off.  Again, for safety and liability reasons, the official rule books are quite explicit when it comes to gun handling and responsibilities… but a shooter’s personal manners and etiquette are left up to the individual.  It’s basic human nature to want to be accepted, respected, and appreciated, but how you are perceived by others is entirely up to you.  Just remember… you reap what you sow!  As a standard practice, I’ve always found that if you put forth good manners with courtesy, and treat others with respect, regardless of who they are or what they do, these positive attributes will most certainly come back to you in equal or greater measure.  With that said, let’s take the elements of shooter responsibilities, duties, and conduct and apply some basic logic and common sense understanding to each.        

     First Point:  It’s every shooter’s responsibility to know the rules and procedures for whichever clay target game they’re shooting.  As you read the official rule books, it’s important to keep in mind that if any shooter’s conduct is judged unsafe, unsportsmanlike, or disruptive to the harmony of the shoot, they can, or will be, asked to leave.  So… let’s start with first things first.  This may not seem like much, but shooters should always keep their average cards up-to-date, and their latest rolling averages calculated.  When you arrive at a shoot, the first thing you’ll do is present your Membership Card and current Average Card to the folks at the classification table.  When you don’t have your cards with you (especially your average card) and they’re not up to date, it makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for shoot management to get you classified and squaded properly. 

     Simply put, the proper classification for singles and doubles is entirely based on the current averages on your card.  Plus your card also displays your correct handicap yardage position as well.  Without a current average card you could easily end up being penalized by having to shoot in a higher class or at a longer yardage… and that’s if you can be allowed to shoot at all.  All of this can be easily avoided with just a little forethought and pre-shoot preparation.  As a shooter, you certainly don’t need this headache and added stress before you even fire a shot.  Simply add this small task to your post-shoot routine and then it becomes a non-issue.  Shoot management will certainly appreciate all your efforts at being prepared, organized, accurate, and up-to-date when you arrive at a shoot.

     Second Point:  The squad leader is the only shooter on the squad that actually has duties to perform during an event.  Here are the basic duties of the squad leader:  1) They will call the squad, and the score keeper to readiness.  2) They will call for a “view target” and get squad member consensus of acceptability.  3) They will then lead-off the sub-event by calling the first target and taking the first shot.  4) As the squad rotates through each post, they will acknowledge the post one shooter is ready before taking the first shot at a new post.  5) When each sub-event is concluded, the squad leader will review the scores for accuracy, initial the score sheet, and then carry it on to the next sub-event.  6) At the end of a 100 target event, the squad leader makes certain the score sheet is complete and legible and that it gets into the hands of shoot management for recording.  If there’s been any corrections made on the score sheet the squad leader is to make certain everything is legible and that all corrections are properly initialed.  (Note:  Shoot management will always verify all scores before official posting). 

     Remember, it’s every shooter’s own responsibility to make certain their scores are correct as they move through an event.  If questions come up, the squad leader will try to resolve the issue through consensus and validation from the squad members and the score keeper.  Squad leaders are not responsible to watch and critique every single target break from every member of the squad.  They are not serious dispute resolvers, nor the supreme final authority on anything.  If any issue needs escalating, the squad leader will simply stop the squad and defer the problem to the shoot authorities for resolution.  At some point every shooter will be faced with being a squad leader, but many shooters have expressed a concern for keeping track of the actual number of shots fired from post to post?  You can dispel this fear very simply by keeping your shells in their box and put the entire box in your pocket.  Then you can easily keep count with your fingers (5 shells to a row/post) as you move through the event.  Overall, with a little practice and experience, being a squad leader really isn’t difficult or intimidating at all.     

     Third Point:  When we talk about proper shooter conduct, words like etiquette, courtesy, manners, and respect, become a big part of the discussion.  First of all, every shooter should always embrace the principles and practices of proper shooter conduct and decorum… both on and off the range.  From my experience, here are just a just few simple courtesies you should try to remember:  While carrying your gun always keep the action open, unloaded, and the muzzle pointed toward the ground.  If you like to carry your shotgun over your shoulder, carry it with the muzzle forward and pointed downward, this keeps your barrel out of the faces of those behind you.  Have your guns and gear organized and ready to go before you arrive at the shoot.  Once you’ve registered, get yourself and your gear ready to move-out promptly to your designated trap or field when the time comes. 

     Pay attention to the On-Deck board, and be at your starting trap or field with plenty of time to spare.  Waiting on an absent squad member is very frustrating for all concerned.  Don’t crowd the squad ahead of you.  Let them clear the trap or field before you take over.  When your squad does move out onto the field, be sure to check the score sheet to confirm your name, class, and/or yardage is properly listed.  If it’s not, make certain to get it added or corrected right then before anyone starts shooting.  If you’re shooting a handicap event, don’t hesitate to step forward and help prepare the field for your squad’s positions on the web.  Listen closely for your score at each post, and never take a shot from your next post until you’ve heard your score announced!  If there’s any question at all, it needs to be resolved before you take that first shot from the new post.  Think of it this way, once you’ve moved to a new post and taken that first shot, you’re accepting the scores given for your previous post… right or wrong.   

     For safety reasons, while on the field and from post to post, the rule books are quite specific on proper gun loading, unloading, and handling.  What they fail to address is the proper conduct each shooter should display while on the web and while moving through an event.  I’ve been clay target shooting for many years now, and I’ve observed a wide variety of shooter performance.  At this point, I can only convey to you what I believe is proper and acceptable shooter conduct:  Above all, know the rules of the game you’re engaged in, and always think safety first!  As your squad moves onto the field, get to your post, set your foot position, focus your eyes down range, and don’t be distracting.  Now is the time for you to concentrate and get your mind focused and into the game!  Pay attention to your squad leader, be alert and watching for the “view target” when called for, and then relax, breathe… and prepare yourself mentally for your turn to shoot. 

     As the event starts, keep your eyes down range, remain quiet, and don’t move anything until the shooter before you has completed his shot.  Then, and only then, do you start through your five second routine for breaking your target.  Once you’ve taken your shot and dismounted and opened your gun, remain quiet… showing courtesy and respect to the following shooter to your right.  Once that shooter has fired at his target, then you can quietly, and without distraction, prepare yourself and your gun for your next shot.  Remember, each time when it’s your turn to shoot, stay focused and within your own rhythm and timing for each shot.  Don’t be a slow poke and disrupt any good squad rhythm, but don’t let yourself be hurried either.  Stay with this simple routine for every shot, on every post, as your squad moves through each event.  Don’t forget… you can and should expect this same courtesy and respect from every other shooter on your squad.   

     Well… these are just the basics of shooter responsibilities, duties, and conduct.  Hopefully, this sheds some light on the subject, or at least generates some good healthy discussion.  If and when the need should ever arise, the roles, responsibilities, duties, and proper shooter conduct, can be politely expressed, easily taught, and is always appreciated.  Remember, excitement and frustration go hand-in-hand when it comes to clay target shooting and a modest level of bragging and whining is acceptable.  However, any loud outbursts, ranting, foul or abusive language, tirades, and temper tantrums should never be tolerated.  A true champion takes everything in stride, and will always maintain the proper decorum with the utmost in dignity, courtesy, humility, and respect… win or lose!  So, as you work hard challenging yourself to be the best possible shooter you can be, put a little extra effort in being the best person you can be as well.  Believe me, when all is said and done… it’ll pay much bigger dividends!


     If you have a specific question, send me an email at and I’ll do my best to get it answered.  Please keep your questions brief and to the point. 

See you at the club… Frank 

© 2011 Claybrakn Shotgun Instruction. All Rights Reserved. 


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